Global Cassava Modelling Consortium – launched at GCP21-II in Uganda

19 June, 2012 by (comments)

A new global alliance of crop and climate scientists could help boost research into one of the most promising, climate-smart crops – cassava.

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Research published by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the CGIAR’s Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) Research Program earlier this year found that this vital food crop – consumed by around 500m people each day in sub-Saharan Africa – could thrive in warmer conditions expected as a result of climate change, while other food crops struggle.

The study, published in the journal Tropical Plant Biology found that temperatures in East and West Africa – two major cassava growing regions – are expected to rise by around 1.8 degrees Celsius as soon as 2050. While this poses problems for the suitability of food staples like bean, banana and sorghum, cassava suitability is likely to be the exception to the rule – brushing off the higher temperatures.

The report earned cassava the title of “Rambo root”, for its ability to survive in such tough conditions.

Speaking at the second meeting of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP-21-II) in Kampala, Uganda, yesterday, Andy Jarvis, a climate change scientist at CIAT and CCAFS, officially launched the Global Cassava Modelling Consortium – an alliance to accelerate cassava research, and help smallholders in Africa adapt to climate change.

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“The potential of cassava is tremendously exciting,” he explained. “But now we have to act promptly on the research, to maximise the crop’s potential.

“This means mobilising researchers all over the world to join the Global Cassava Modelling Consortium, where they can share their research to help us better understand the physiology of the plant, and explore avenues for improving its management and delivering better varieties to farmers.”

The Consortium will initially establish a “loose” network of scientists sharing their current cassava research, together with historical research data. But as the Consortium grows, Jarvis envisages a more complex information-sharing network, which includes the experiences of cassava farmers across the Tropics, with farms being treated as experimental stations in their own right.

“We’ve already established a network like this on a smaller scale with fruit farmers in Colombia,” he continued. “These farmers share detailed information about their crop management practices, which helps us develop site-specific recommendations to maximise fruit production. With the right support we could extend this concept to cassava production as well.

“Knowledge is power, and sharing information about cassava really could help ensure the ‘Rambo root’ lives up to its name, and become one of the most important climate change adaptation crops for Africa.”

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Filed Under: Africa @en, Cassava @en, Climate Change